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Frat brothers charged in NIU hazing death in court today

CHICAGO – Four fraternity brothers charged in the felony hazing death of a Northern Illinois University freshman are scheduled to make their first court appearances Friday in Sycamore.

Alexander Jandick, Omar Salameh, Steven Libert and James Harvey were each charged with a felony last month following the death of freshman David Bogenberger.

Bogenberger, a 19-year-old finance major from Palatine, died of alcohol-induced heart trouble at NIU’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter house after a night of heavy drinking during an initiation party.

The fifth fraternity representative charged with a felony, Patrick Merrill, does not have a court date scheduled yet, DeKalb County prosecutors said.

The fraternity leaders are among 22 students charged in connection with Bogenberger’s death. The other 17 face misdemeanor hazing charges.

DeKalb police Lt. Jason Leverton said Thursday that 18 of the 22 charged have surrendered to authorities since police issued warrants for their arrest Dec. 17.

Three additional students informed police that they were out of state but would surrender after they returned to campus from the holiday break. That left just one student unaccounted for, Leverton said.

Bogenberger was found dead in the fraternity house Nov. 2, the morning after he took part in a party called “Parents Night” sponsored by the Pikes chapter and its associated sorority.

Participants, police said, went from room to room at the fraternity, answering questions posed by senior members and sorority sisters, who then poured alcoholic drinks for the pledges.

A postmortem showed that Bogenberger’s blood alcohol level was almost five times the legal limit for driving. The liquor he drank contributed significantly to a fatal heart arrhythmia, authorities said.

The five charged with felony hazing were in positions of responsibility: Jandick, 21, of Naperville, was chapter president, and Harvey, a 21-year-old DeKalb resident, was the chapter vice president. Libert, 20, of Naperville, served as event planner, and Salameh, 21, of Burbank, was the pledge adviser. Merrill, 19, of DeKalb, was the fraternity secretary.

The fraternity chapter was suspended in the wake of Bogenberger’s death, and NIU has announced that 31 students will face university disciplinary hearings for their participation in the party.

Dr. Susan Lipkins, a New York psychologist and author, said most national fraternity organizations do a poor job of informing campus chapter leaders that they can be held responsible for hazing incidents that end badly.

Lipkins, who wrote a book on preventing hazing, said few people have been imprisoned for serious hazing incidents, but that may change as more states toughen laws.

“People are dying,” Lipkins said. “If someone died in some other way, people would be held responsible.”

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